Self-billing

VAT Question

My client is a carpet supplier and fitter subcontractor involved in a large new dwelling development and working to a major building contractor. When he started working to the main contractor, the main contractor instead on them entering into a self-billing arrangement, and so the relevant agreements were raised and signed by both parties. However, the main contractor has always raised the self-billing invoice as zero-rated. I am concerned that this is incorrect as carpets cannot be zero-rated but if HMRC were to identify the issue, would they assess and penalise my client?

VAT Answer

Firstly, it is correct that carpets are specifically excluded from being building materials within the VAT Act and therefore, even when supplied during the building of a new dwelling, they cannot be zero-rated. Therefore’ the invoices raised are incorrect.

However, section 29 of the VAT Act 1994, which provides for the self-billings arrangements, confirms that where the recipient (the main contractor) raises an invoice to himself, as is the case in a self-billing arrangement, and that invoice understates the VAT chargeable on the supply to him, then HMRC can consider the VAT to be due from the main contractor, not the supplier (your client).

It isn’t clear exactly what HMRC’s process for this would be but it seems unlikely that their processes would allow for them to assess your client and then chase the recipient for payment of the assessment raised against your client.

Assuming that HMRC process does not involve them assessing your client then it also seems that there could be no penalty for the error levied against your client. After all, the incorrect invoice was not raised by your client.

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